NORMAN, Okla. (Nov. 1, 2012) – The score doesn’t indicate it, but Oklahoma Christian accomplished a lot of what it wanted to do on Thursday night in a 118-53 exhibition loss at NCAA Division I power Oklahoma.
The Lady Eagles successfully implemented their preferred up-tempo style of play, forced the Sooners to run with them and kept competing until the end, all things that OC coach Stephanie Findley said will serve her team well the rest of the season.
“I feel good about our team,” Findley said, mingling with dozens of OC supporters who attended the game at Lloyd Noble Center. “Our goal is to stay healthy, and we did this game. I was pleased. The score doesn’t reflect what we were pleased about.
“We outrebounded them the first half. That’s awesome. We made them call about two or three timeouts in the first half. That’s awesome. We forced turnovers with our press. We did some good things.”
It was the 10th time in the past 12 seasons that OU – coached by OC alumna Sherri Coale – had hosted the Lady Eagles for an exhibition. The Sooners entered the game ranked No. 12 and were picked in preseason polls to finish second in the Big 12 Conference, while OC was coming off an injury-marred 9-20 season.
OC led once, at 3-0 after a 3-pointer by Katy O’Steen in the opening minute. The senior center led the Lady Eagles with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
OU soon took control and steadily pulled away. The Sooners led 51-23 at halftime, although OC outrebounded them 20-19 during the first 20 minutes.
The Lady Eagles never let up on their defensive pressure against the taller, stronger, faster Sooners. Coale twice called timeouts after OC defenders trapped OU players. On one of those plays, 5-7 Kaitlyn Morris harassed OU’s 6-1 senior All-Big 12 guard, Whitney Hand, in a corner so fiercely that Coale had no option but to stop the play.
“One of our things was to see how long they would run and if we could make them tired, and we did,” Findley said. “I think we did. We were getting tired too, but they were definitely getting tired. That is one of the objectives is to try to wear the other team out. While we’re not as tall or as long or as athletic as they are, I was pleased. It was a full-court game.
“I’m sure they’ve never seen us come in here with a plan to press them. And who would? We just said, hey, this is what we want to practice and work on, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Sixteen OC players – everyone but Carli Covalt, who sat out due to injury – saw playing time. Morris, Sydney Hill and Talor Ward each scored six points and Roz Hamilton, Madison Middle and Jasmine Hinton scored five points each. OC shot 24.7 percent (18 of 73) from the field.
Six-foot-6 center Nicole Griffin led the Sooners with 23 points. Morgan Hook added 18 points and nine assists for OU, while Portia Durrett had 16 points, Aaryn Ellenberg had 15 points and Nicole Kornet had 14 points. OU eventually won the rebounding battle 53-39 and shot a sizzling 58.3 percent (42 of 72) from the field.
“As always, I appreciate Oklahoma Christian coming down and playing an exhibition game because we know that a couple of things will always happen,” Coale said. “They will always play really, really hard and they will be able to shoot it from anywhere at any time. Both of those things proved true tonight. I think they’re going to have a great year. I really do. They open on Saturday, I believe, and we wish them the best with that.
“They gave us some great stuff to work from in the film room. A lot of cuts on offense, which tested our jump to the ball. Played a lot of five-out, where our big had to come out and guard on the perimeter, which was good for us. Press action, we hadn’t done any press offense, so that was good for us, too. So we got exactly what we wanted to get out of the exhibition game.”
Findley, who coached Coale during the 1986-86 and 1986-87 seasons at OC, said she always is glad for an opportunity to go up against the Sooners and play in a major-college atmosphere.
“It’s always fun to play here,” Findley said. “Outsiders see the score and that’s all they look at. But this is a great experience for the girls. After they graduate, they will not remember what the score was, but they will remember they played here and they will remember what it was like being out on this floor playing against a top-10 team.”
OC will open its regular season on Saturday against Oklahoma Wesleyan at 1 p.m. in the Lady Eagles’ traditional homecoming game.